Life Cycle Assessments — painting a full picture of a product’s impact

BeZero Carbon
May 10 · 3 min read

BeZero’s Sales Manager, Jaclyn Foss, explains what a Life Cycle Assessment is and why the fashion industry should look to applying the tool to elevate their environmental strategies and brand value.

Environmental awareness is growing rapidly in the fashion industry. This trend has brought a noticeable increase in the number of buzzwords being used in marketing and social media strategies. Brands are claiming that their practices are sustainable, ethical or eco-conscious.

While this is the beginning of a much-needed shift, the rigour with which it is pursued is crucial to the impact businesses can achieve. At BeZero we are pursuing a product footprinting process that enables firms to understand the full scope of their impact.

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is the best-in-class technique for analysing the environmental impact caused by every step in the lifespan of a product: material acquisition; production; distribution; use and end-of-life. It is an essential tool that is widely recognised for its accuracy and rigour.

When brands consider setting their environmental strategies, the LCA is a powerful tool. We believe there are 5 key reasons for this:

  1. Contribution: be a leader in shifting the fashion industry towards a circular economy
  2. Cost Savings: reduce spending on energy and materials, and improve supply chain efficiency
  3. Differentiation: gain a competitive advantage in the industry
  4. Brand Value: improve reputation by demonstrating transparent environmental action, attracting engaged employees and repeat customers
  5. Anticipation: be ahead of policy and regulatory changes (ie. carbon taxes or item bans)

LCAs were first proposed in the 1960s and they focused on calculating the emission hotspots within a product’s life cycle. Surprisingly, these were most prominent in the product’s supply chain (production, transportation and disposal) as opposed to the use of the product itself.

LCA’s map out the entire supply chain from cradle to grave

The LCA tool grew in popularity and scientific rigour because it held companies responsible for their impact on the environment. In 2007, the LCA was first applied within the fashion industry and immediately challenged standards for Levi Strauss & Co.

This was a pivotal moment introducing a new level of transparency — the company released all of their findings from the assessment. The Levi Strauss & Co. LCA uncovered that the greatest impact of their production was in their cotton cultivation and consumer care. These were Levi’s hotspots.

This discovery allowed them to make strategic changes to their production processes. Their Levi’s® Water<Less™ and their Care Tag for the Planet initiative were created to educate and encourage their consumers to participate in the movement.

Since then, the LCA has been used by many brands such as Hunza.G and Otiumberg as an essential first step in understanding their carbon footprint and identifying their emission hotspots.

They can set carbon reduction goals and devise sustainability strategies like Levi’s® Water<Less™ to meet these targets. This would not be possible without the rigour of an LCA.

Identifying the emission “hotspots” within the supply chain

Consumers are increasingly demanding transparency and accountability from the fashion industry. In fact, it is said that “one of the main factors preventing positive change within the global apparel industry is a downward spiral of doubt, propelled by a lack of transparency”. Studies show that 66% of consumers would spend more on a product if they were confident that it came from a sustainable brand. The LCA is the most accurate tool to provide this.

Companies within the fashion industry should consider implementing this tool into a wider environmental strategy to accurately diagnose their carbon footprint, and work towards a credible net-zero strategy. This is a low cost, high impact way to lead the industry towards environmental accountability and keep pace with consumer demands for climate action.

Written by Jaclyn Foss, Sales Manager.

BeZero Carbon

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